No one likes to think about getting older. For many, the idea of aging brings up images of people who are frail or sick. While the fountain of youth doesn’t exist, there are things you can do to protect your body and mind as you age.
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Common Health Problems in the Elderly
As you get older, it’s common for new aches and pains to emerge. Your skin starts to wrinkle and change. And your memory and reaction times aren’t as sharp as they once were.
Common health problems associated with aging include:
- Heart disease.
- Hearing loss.
- Cataracts and vision changes.
- Back, neck pain, and osteoarthritis.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Healthy Aging Tips
Healthy aging means putting practices in place that protect and enhance both your physical and mental health. And you don’t have to wait until you’re older to incorporate these changes into your life. The sooner you start following these healthy aging tips, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
1. Get enough restful sleep.
Regardless of your age, sleep is important of physical and mental health. As you get older, you can experience new and worsening sleep problems. Adults between 18 to 64 need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. For those age 65 and older it’s 7 to 8 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Getting enough sleep can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of obesity.
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improve your immune function.
- Boost concentration and productivity.
- Enhance memory consolidation, improving your ability to remember fact-based information, and perform tasks.
- Boost your mood and improve social interactions.
If you’re tired during the day despite getting enough sleep, talk to your doctor. You can be tested for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where you stop breathing briefly, but repeatedly, while sleeping. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of heart disease.
2. Stay physically and mentally active.
Getting regular exercise can lower your risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and obesity. It can also ease anxiety and depression. And it can help you get a better night’s sleep.
The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends:
- 2.5 to 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, or a combination of these. Older adults with chronic conditions who can’t meet this goal should stay as physically active as their health condition allows.
- Muscle strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity, 2 or more days a week. This can help strengthen your bones.
- Balance training as part of workouts for older adults.
Health In Aging recommends walking at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. This can help you stay mentally and physically fit, boost your mind, and strengthen bones.
Staying mentally active is equally important for brain health and emotional well-being. Keep your brain sharp by doing crossword puzzles or challenging family members to a video game match. Engage with others by volunteering or taking up a new hobby.
3. Tackle mental health issues.
Approximately 1 in 5 older adults has depression and anxiety, according to Health In Aging. If you’re struggling with either, speak up. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional who can provide a treatment plan to help you manage both, so you can live your best life.
4. Lower your risk of falls.
Among those over 65, falls and related complications are the leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries, according to National Council on Aging. One in 4 older adults fall every year in the U.S. These falls can be especially problematic for people with weakening bones from osteoporosis.
While falls can occur anywhere, most take place at home. Conditions outside, such as snow and ice, can also increase your risk of falling.
To prevent falls, reassess your home’s safety. Make sure hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of tripping hazards, such as shoes. Remove area rugs or tape them to the floor so they don’t move when you walk on them. Use handrails when going up and down the stairs.
If you’re falling more frequently than you used to or are falling without an obvious cause, talk to your doctor. They can assess your balance and gait and see if any medications or underlying conditions are contributing to your falls.
5. Practice safer sex.
A healthy sex life is a part of healthy aging. And while more older adults report having more sex, more are also getting diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases, according to the American Geriatric Society’s Health In Aging Foundation. STDs among adults age 65 and older have more than doubled in the last 10 years. To protect yourself, use a condom until you are in a monogamous relationship with someone whose sexual history you know.
For more information and resources about healthy aging, contact Education and Consultative Services of UPMC Senior Services free help and referral line at 1-866-430-8742 or email UPMCSeniorServices@UPMC.edu.
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About UPMC Senior Services
UPMC Senior Services provides resources for older adults, their loved ones, and caregivers at every stage of the aging process. We create educational programs and health care services. We use our services to help seniors live longer and healthier lives. We partner with other organizations to determine the biggest challenges facing seniors and work to overcome them.